Monday, October 18, 2010

Skype 5 Resolves v4.2 Accessibility Issues With JAWS And Windows 7 64bit

I recently migrated a JAWS user from Windows Vista 32 bit to Windows 7 64 bit. She was using Skype 4.1.179 on Vista successfully. With the Windows 7 migration, I installed the latest version of Skype ( and we found it completely unusable. Skype 4.2 was not fully keyboard accessible with the biggest issue being that we could not arrow through the Contacts list to select a contact to call (and we did have Extended Keyboard Navigation enabled). Much worse, JAWS would not speak the names of the controls! We were able to revert back to an earlier version of 4.1 ( -- not the exact same version as was previously installed on Vista) and we experienced similar problems.
We then installed Skype 5 and this has resolved the issues. The interface is navigable via the keyboard and JAWS speaks the names of the controls. Below are some tips for installing Skype 5 and some changes that we've noticed, including a new item in the Accessibility submenu, "Screen Reader Mode".

Installing Skype 5

  1. Download the software from
  2. Start the installation. When the installer appears, select your language (if necessary), then tab to the Options button and press Spacebar to activate it. Tab to the checkboxes and uncheck any options you do not want e.g. Extras Manager, Plugins, Toolbar for Google Chrome, Start Skype when computer starts.
  3. Tab to the "I agree - install" button and activate it.
  4. When Skype launches, a Welcome screen appears. If you do not want to see it again, tab to the "Show Welcome screeen at Startup" checkbox and uncheck it.
  5. If you are ready to continue, tab to "Close this Welcome screen and start using Skype."

Configuring Skype 5 For JAWS

There are now two accessibility options located in the Tools menu (Alt T), Accessibility sub menu (press A): "Extended Keyboard Navigation" and "Screen Reader Mode". With either or both of these options enabled, you can tab to all controls within Skype and JAWS will speak their names and/or contents. If both of these options are turned off, you will be unable to access some controls e.g. Contacts tab, Recent tab, Add a contact link, list items in "Chat content widget list view" of Conversations window (down arrow just seems to move the scroll bar) and links or buttons (such as Open File) in a list item. Also, JAWS will not identify where the keyboard focus is. I have been unable to find a difference between Extended Keyboard Navigation and Screen Reader Mode thus far and have been unable to locate any documentation about Screen Reader Mode.
For ease of navigation, change the view to Compact from Default; this causes a conversation to open in a separate window rather than to the right of the contact list, in one main window: View menu (Alt V), Compact View (press M).
For efficient call answer and hang up, enable the hotkeys: Tools menu (Alt T), Options (press O), down arrow to Hotkeys, Tab to "Enable keyboard shortcuts" checkbox, Tab to shortcuts listbox, use down arrow to locate hotkey and Spacebar to select e.g. Answer call (Alt Page Up), Hang up (Alt Page Down), Tab to Save button and press Spacebar to save changes and close dialog box.
Review other Options especially General, Privacy, Alerts & messages, Call, IM, SMS, Advanced: Tools menu (Alt T), Options (press O), down arrow to setting category (vertical "tree view" on left-hand side), tab to controls for modifying settings (right-hand side), tab to Save button and activate when done (also closes Options dialog box).

Notable Differences From Version 4.2

The Conversations list is now called "Recent" and it contains History as well.
When you start Skype 5, it automatically opens a "Skype Home" window which gives you access to your Profile, Facebook News Feed and a Give Feedback form. If you are in Compact view, this will be in a new window so you might want to Alt Tab to that window and close it; it then seems not to reopen the next time you start Skype.

Other Helpful Tips

A quick way to move to your Contacts list is with the Alt 1 hotkey; use Alt 2 to switch to the Recent tab. These hotkeys are listed in the View menu in case you forget them.
To send a file, locate the contact in either the Contacts list or Conversations list. Press the Application key to display the context menu. Down arrow to the Send File... menu item and press Enter (or press the access key, D). A typical Windows file browser dialog box opens. Select the file and then press Enter to activate the Open button. A conversation window opens with the focus in the message edit box. To check the status of the file, Shift Tab 3 times until you arrive in the "Chat content widget list view"; press the End key to go to the bottom of the list.

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